Raising Visibility: UAIR Represents at National Conferences

June 20, 2023
Skyline of Cleveland Ohio with the "AIR Forum" logo and UAIR logo at the top corners of the image

At the end of May, a handful of UAIR staff members had the opportunity to attend the 2023 Association of Institutional Research (AIR) Forum Annual Conference in Cleveland, Ohio. The AIR Forum Conference is a unique opportunity for analytics and institutional research professionals to learn from and interact with leading experts, network and share ideas.

This year our very own Chief Data Officer, Ravneet Chadha, had a chance to sit on and present at a Leadership Impact Session called Hub, Spoke, Fabric? CDOs’ Perspectives on the Role of IR in Data Strategy. This session highlighted how CDOs must understand the role of institutional research and its place in broader data strategy. In the session, Chadha and his colleagues discussed how aligning institutional data needs with feedback from the IR community is necessary for success and how there can often be a lack of agreement among CDOs on this very issue. The goal of the presentation was to help IR leaders and practitioners see their work in the context of a broader data strategy, and to begin a roadmap for CDOs facing a similar task on their own campuses.

During this leadership session, a panelist mentioned how often it feels as though the Chief Data Officer is frequently creating the job as they do it; and since the role itself is rather new in higher education, it will look different at different institutions. With a 16-year background in the sphere of institutional data, Chadha’s experience served as a major contribution to this presentation. 

Other UAIR attendees at the 2023 AIR Forum Conference included Ashley Hurand, Assistant Director, University Analytics & Institutional Research, Rico Silva, Student Data Program Manager, and Monica Reid, Data Analyst, Institutional Reporting.

During his attendance at the conference, Silva noted how developed and extensive UAIR is as a department. With 40+ employees that include data analysts, BI developers, cloud engineers, customer support specialists, data engineers, and data scientists, UAIR is one of the larger analytics and IR departments in the space of higher ed compared to peer institutions. Being this size allows us to accomplish more robust data reporting work that may put us ahead of the curve. Silva also noted that, even with UAIR being the size that it is, there are many valuable insights to be gained in observing the work other colleges are completing. “It was great to see some different visualizations that other schools were utilizing to show retention data,” Silva said. There is still work to be done.

Hurand’s experience at the conference left her inspired on how UAIR can aim for a stronger data culture at the university. Many themes that she picked up on throughout her session attendance included core components to effective data literacy, like improving access and avoiding information overload. With examples from other institutions, Hurand believes UAIR is primed to develop comprehensive landing pages and dashboards that showcase our analytic offerings and easier navigation through data content.

While our team has been frequently called on to offer guidance regarding different data literacy initiatives at different institutions, the AIR Forum Conference left me inspired with ideas on how much more we could be doing to strengthen the University of Arizona’s data culture” - Ashley Hurand, Assistant Director, University Analytics & Institutional Research

Reid, a Data Analyst who works closely with UAIR’s IPEDS reports, also thought the conference provided important updates to how different institutions approach survey submissions for IPEDS, Common Data Set (CDS), and U.S. News World Report. While she said it was clear the University of Arizona was more advanced in a lot of areas regarding this work, she also stated that, “it was interesting to learn how other institutions are completing their survey submissions, as well as the techniques and tools they use to do it.” Some notable techniques included the use of R, a programming language for statistical computing, to automate surveys and save time.

UAIR’s conference presence did not end at the wrapping up of this year’s AIR Forum Conference. Chadha also had the opportunity to attend the Data Governance & Information Quality (DGIQ) Conference in San Diego, California the first week of June.

The DGIQ provides an opportunity for attendees to engage in discussions on data governance, data privacy, master data management (MDM) practices, access management, and many other educational programs suited for data professionals of all levels. With this being one of the nation’s largest events dedicated to its topic of data governance and information quality, Chadha noticed that many of the best practices, how-to’s, and tutorials presented at DGIQ are already being implemented as day-to-day functions in UAIR. Even with this important work set as a major facet of the department’s daily structure, Chadha also recognized the importance to solidify our data governance work at a higher level.

Data governance is a crucial part of the operations and responsibilities we take on at UAIR. While we already have a lot of plans and progress being made in our data management work, formalizing these practices as core functions of our department ecosystem is a necessary next step.” - Ravneet Chadha, Associate Vice President and Chief Data Officer

With both conferences coming to a close, UAIR staff returns to the office, bringing with them valuable insights into how our team can work together to define, develop, and implement data governance functions and reporting best practices in our daily work. With UAIR’s dedicated team, the future of data culture at the University of Arizona is bright.